for Sports Professionals

Providing Content for Sports Officials, Coaches, and Athletes

A study of expertise and cognitive skills in open sport referees: by MacMahon and Starkes

"Officiating presents both challenging and crucial skills, which place large demands on human information-processing limits."

This psychological model describes
1) perceptual-cognitive performance
2) perceptual-motor performance

These performance categories may answer the question,
How well referees decide "warranted infractions" (foul call) vs. "legal plays" (no call):
The study finds,
1) Video clips are excellent stimuli for referee training
2) High-experience referees use more sources of information, including rules-book knowledge and personal refereeing experience
(episodic memory)

Sports psychology is defined as having 3 parts:

1) Psycho-physiological
2) Social-psychological
3) Cognitive-behavioral

-as defined by Malcolm's SAGE Dictionary of Sports-

Psycho-physiological regards physical processes in the brain and body:

If a referee's de facto primary judgment cue is via his/her visual interpretation of game action, then factors like heart rate, muscle tension, blood pressure, etc., may have bearing on an ability to achieve the correct call, aside from basic factors like positioning and anticipation.

Social-Psychological refers to behaviors of individuals and their interactions in a sports environment:

This approach to sports psychology should explain how and why referees, players, and coaches relate to each other and also their environments.
It frequently poses notions such as reward, reinforcement of behaviors, over and against punishment, deterrence of behaviors.

For referees, a social-psychological approach is a valuable focus to explore behaviors and interactions for retaining sports-officials for longer time-periods, or again, for evaluating performance competencies.  These may better shape rules meetings, clinics, and presentations for referees.

It can explain how coaches have the ability to attain a team culture, as well as improve interactions with players for shaping the most 'coachable'  players, for assuring acclimation to a team atmosphere, or for succeeding in drills.

Lastly, players will use social-psychological arguments to define interactions concerning success in competition, personal fulfillment, and the value of team-building behaviors/ relationships with teammates.

approach to sports will use thoughts and emotions as an influence on behavior and as a way to interpret events.

One cognitive-behavioral device is the use of imagery.
Referees and athletes may
improve key skills such as anticipation by thinking about the next moves in the game before they happen.
Moreover, physical skills that use
muscle memory can be improved when one visualizes the moves necessary to complete the play/ play-call; simply envisioning this makes it easier as the situation arises.

Another device of cognitive-behavioral is self-talk.
For referees and athletes, having a 'can-do' attitude may make all the difference in a successful performance.  Self-communication can be done at anytime, and is advantageous for this reason. 
Other possible uses for self-talk are: *to remain focused on game-action (block out crowd noises); *to reinforce memory of practice techniques (fundamentals of officiating/ of athleticism); *to motivate oneself (retain hustle/ keep going in tough situations); etc.

The proverbial 'Sports Psychology Handbook' is always being written and rewritten by the people who use it everyday.  Perhaps you can use these techniques to find your own voice in sports participation or to explore new avenues for application... As for direct application to officiating, there are numerous psychology-based questions to be asked and answered -- a few RefWriter has developed are posed below:
Enforcing the Rules:
What must a ref do, and what is needed to achieve the goal?

'Consistency' of primary concern:
If we must call the last minute of the game like the rest of the game, What can help assure success in this area?
Mental Training Techniques as Preparation for Sports Officials:

Cognitive-Behavioral categories include,
1) Imagery (before and after competition)
2) Self-Talk
(state responses to situations positively)
3) Relaxation
(monitor breath control and muscle-tension)

Additional information on these 3 categories can be found @ Successful Sports Officiating, ©2011
-by Robert Weinberg

Questions that shape a sport-psychology philosophy:

*Does how a sports official calls rules' infractions/ illegal plays, depend on contexts?

*Does the standard of competition, as a pre-context, serve as a judgment heuristic (psychological indicator)?

Does the standard affect the calls as far as play-calling strictness? 

*Will higher levels of competition create an atmosphere of more leniency based on the kind of play athletes display? 

How does the level of competition affect the role of the referee, in general?

*Is the officials' duty to maintain a sporting discipline?

Would this mean to provide strong penalty enforcement?

Is this the onus of all referee action during competitions? 

*Is ambiguity of player-actions an excuse for, a reason for, or the primary consequence of how a referee correctly interprets fouls?

Or, does the ease of assessments of player-actions have a bearing on how the referee manages the fair and natural flow of game progression?

*How does the external validity of penalties and/or the need to explain rules' interpretation to players and coaches affect play calls?

*How do behaviorally anchored performance categories and performance competencies keep the competitive aspect of sport wholesome -- so both the letter and spirit of the rules are satisfied in an impartial manner concerning both sides?